Running on Empty

sex_drive_movie_poster2“Sex Drive” might be an ideal comedy for people who think the world is out to get them. They’re the only ones who can relate to characters like these, who seem to live in a universe that doesn’t like them. Lots of great movies involve heroes who struggle with the world around them, but what’s unusual about the ones in this movie is that they simply let it beat them over and over again.

The plot isn’t the issue – it’s got lots of moments that have the potential to be funny. The thing is, everyone in this movie is indifferent to conflict, so the whole thing writes itself. When poor Ian (Josh Zuckerman) wakes up with evidence of a nocturnal emission and the whole family stops by his room unannounced, it’s only a matter of time before everybody finds out what’s under the covers.

Yes, that scene is a rip off of the one from “American Pie,” but “Sex Drive” doesn’t stop there. Famous moments from other comedies turn up here, hidden behind a few changes – the infernal delight of seeing Ian’s stepmom (Kim Ostrenko) with a condom stuck in her hair doesn’t make it any less of a retread of the hair gel scene from “There’s Something About Mary.” With all the recycled gags in this movie, it makes you wonder if the source material, a novel called “All the Way” by Andy Behrens, had any influence on it at all. “Sex Drive” is disappointing not just because it reinvents the wheel, but because it doesn’t go anywhere with it.

The setup is a long shot to start with. Ian finds a girl online named Ms. Tasty (Katrina Bowden), who suggests they meet in real life. He and his best friend, an improbable Don Juan named Lance (Clark Duke), steal his big brother’s car (which looks like a prototype for the General Lee on “The Dukes of Hazzard”), pick up a mutual friend and toughie sidekick named Felicia (Amanda Crew), and hit the road for one unfunny mishap after another.
Eventually, Ian’s vengeful brother, Rex (James Marsden), catches up with him to take back the car. He gets a couple of laughs, but he appears so rarely that it doesn’t really matter.

To be sure, some of the people Ian meets deserve attention. Ezekiel, an Amish fellow played by Seth Green, is an expert on muscle cars who comes along at the precise time he is needed. That the most entertaining character in “Sex Drive” happens to be Amish is more revealing than its makers probably realize.

The funniest thing about this film might be the response from the audience: When everybody laughs, it’s often in the spirit of irony. By the way, speaking of irony, the executive producer of this film was Mike Nelson, who used to make jokes during B movies with his robot pals on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” It’s a shame that the show’s been cancelled, since “Sex Drive” would’ve inspired all kinds of unflattering comments. We’ve all got to laugh at ourselves once in a while, right?

About David Guzman 207 Articles
I just received my degree in journalism at Brooklyn College, where I served as the arts editor for one of the campus newspapers, the Kingsman. When it comes to the arts, I’ve managed to cover a variety of subjects, including music, films, books and art exhibitions. I’ve reviewed everything from “Slumdog Millionaire” (which was a good film) to “Coraline,” (which wasn’t) and I’ve also interviewed legendary film critic Leonard Maltin.

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